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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » Egg and Poultry Production Safety Research Unit » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #305398

Title: Impact of commercial housing system and nutrition on egg quality parameters

item KARCHER, D. - Michigan State University
item Jones, Deana
item Abdo, Zaid
item ZHAOS, Y - Iowa State University
item SHEPARD, T. - Iowa State University
item XIN, H. - Iowa State University

Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/25/2014
Publication Date: 3/1/2015
Citation: Karcher, D.M., Jones, D.R., Abdo, Z., Zhaos, Y., Shepard, T.A., Xin, H. 2015. Impact of commercial housing system and nutrition on egg quality parameters. Poultry Science. 94:485-501.

Interpretive Summary: The housing of laying hens is a hot button topic in the U.S. and around the world. Unfortunately, there is limited research comparing U.S. commercial egg production in various hen housing systems. A study was conducted to compare commercial conventional cage, enriched colony cage, and cage-free aviary housing systems. Egg production characteristics, as well as egg quality factors, were monitored throughout the production cycle. It is known that hen nutrition impacts egg production and quality. In the current commercial comparison study, hens were managed to maximize economic impact. As a result, hens in the various housing systems were not consistently fed the same diets. Attempts to directly compare egg production and quality data resulted in inconclusive analyses. To provide a true and accurate assessment of egg production and egg quality differences due to hen housing system, analysis of covariance coupled with principal component analysis was utilized to assess the impact of nutritional changes on production parameters and egg quality factors. Many of the egg production traits were most impacted by total amount of feed supplied, instead of level of nutrients consumed. Results indicate that egg quality measures are more directly impacted by hen nutrition, therefore dietary control research studies are needed to accurately assess the impact of hen housing systems on egg quality. Hen housing system management in the U.S. is still a pressing research need to assist the egg industry with making informed management decisions to ensure a safe, high quality, and affordable egg supply for U.S. consumers.

Technical Abstract: The U.S. egg industry is exploring alternative housing systems for laying hens. However, limited published research related to cage-free aviary systems and enriched colony cages exists related to production, egg quality, and hen nutrition. The laying hen’s nutritional needs and resulting productivity are well established with the conventional cage system, but limited research is available in regards to alternative housing systems. The limitations exist with limited availability of alternative housing systems in research settings and the considerable expense for increased bird numbers in a replicate due to alternative housing system design. Therefore, the objective of the current study was to evaluate the impact of nutrition on production and egg quality parameters from laying hens housed at a commercial facility. Lohmann LSL laying hens were housed in three systems: enriched colony cage, cage-free aviary, and conventional cage at a single commercial facility. Daily production records were collected along with dietary changes during the 15 production periods. Each period, eggs were analyzed for shell strength, shell thickness, Haugh unit, vitelline membrane strength, and egg solids. An analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) coupled with a principal components analysis (PCA) approach was utilized to assess the impact of nutritional changes on production parameters and monitored egg quality factors. The production traits of hen-day production and mortality were more impacted by the amount of feed supplied to the hens as opposed to the dietary changes impacting egg quality traits. Shell parameters, vitelline membrane parameters, and egg total solids are more directly influenced by hen nutrition as opposed to laying hen housing system. Therefore, further research needs to be conducted in controlled research settings on nutritional requirements of laying hens in the alternative housing systems on the impact on egg quality measures.